Mother Earth Living

A Rammed-Earth Home in Napa Valley

One homeowner uses pisé de terre, a 2,000-year-old building method, to make his sustainable home.

Through this dramatic entryway, crowned with a cast-earth pediment, is the future of rammed-earth construction. It’s also a preview to David Easton’s courtyard compound, which includes the charming guest house with kiwi-covered arbor (shown opposite).
Photography by Robert Reck
Pooling eco-assets is what Easton’s house is all about. Here, water from the pool anchoring the interior courtyard and outdoor fountain combine with San Francisco Bay breezes to deliver cool, moist air to the main house during sweltering summer days.
You can book on good design in the dining area/library, the main artery of the compound. Floors are grounded with terra tiles, thick PISE pavers grouted to resemble their commercial cousins. Recycled beams form an overhead canopy.
This massive cast-earth, wood-burning fireplace in the dining area provides heat to be held in 18-inch-thick walls and released during cool California nights. Opposite, more warmth comes from radiant-heat flooring in the ­living area.
Far from the primitive earthen walls of ancient civilizations, Easton’s entry stairway is a complex configuration of nooks and niches indented in a PISE wall that have been grout-washed to resemble the look of marble.
Easton’s PISE technique is elegantly evident in the hearth of the house, where the rough texture of the kitchen walls, infused with terra-cotta plaster, contrasts starkly with the walls’ smooth flip side.
PISE terra tiles anchor the master bath where the ­vanity surface ­consists of recycled counter tiles from a seconds outlet.

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